Married couple Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist are acclaimed authors in their own right, so we at Better Reading experienced some serious heart palpitations when we heard that the romantic duo were going to co-author a book. The result? An effortless, page-flicker that shows off the best qualities of both Anne and Graeme’s personal writing.
You probably know Graeme for his international bestseller The Rosie Project and its sequel The Rosie Effect, the books that propelled him from a little known Aussie charmer to a widely-respected, award-winning novelist. Thankfully, all the wit and wisdom of his lighthearted cinematic-style of writing is prevalent throughout Two Steps Forward. But this novel’s ultimate charm no doubt arises from the writing influence of Anne, who has over 25 years of clinical and research experience in perinatal psychiatry – a personal life that has helped shape her prolific psychological thriller novels, but is also evident in the powerful observations of human behaviour throughout this story. A thriller writer’s sensibility has done wonders to lift the pace of this bubbly, tender drama.
Two Steps Forward begins with two very different characters – Martin and Zoe – setting out alone to walk the Camino, a sprawling 2,000-kilometre pilgrimage from Cluny, France to Santiago, Spain. In alternating chapters, Martin and Zoe embark for the fabled Camino walk for different reasons. Martin has just suffered an earth-shattering divorce, and has left the comfort of his engineering job in Yorkshire behind for a quest of self-rediscovery. Zoe, however, has travelled by herself after the sudden and tragic death of her husband Keith.
As both wayward souls begin their physical journeys they propel themselves on a spiritual and emotional one, too. Throughout the book, Simsion and Buist tap into the mythic powers of the Camino, using a tried and true novel technique of having a character’s literal journey represent an inner discovery. Martin and Zoe bump into each other along the trail time and time again; with each interaction pulling them slightly closer to the unexpected . . .
In their own ways, Martin and Zoe are preparing themselves to find love again, but the real question is: can these two different people follow the same path together? It’s a love story full of all the cute uneasiness of new romance, the hesitations, the bluffs, the mixed signals – and, of course, the chase.
Since Anne primarily writes thrillers (check out her exhilarating Natalie King series), and Graeme has a flair for domestic drama, this book is a comfy amalgamation of both voices: at once witty and heartfelt, then at turns suspenseful and mysterious. As the resplendent Australian springtime washes away the cold winter, what could be better than picking up Two Steps Forward to read in the sunshine? It’s heartwarming, funny, and erudite, flowing effortlessly from the first page to the last.
Graeme Simsion is the internationally bestselling author of The Rosie Project, The Rose Effect, and The Best of Adam Sharp. Anne Buist is chair of Women’s Mental Health at the University of Melbourne and author of Medea’s Curse and Dangerous to Know. They live together in Melbourne.